The (painfully) overdue finale / by Kendra Archer

" Wherever you go, there you are. " - Eckhart Tolle

I've been home in Vancouver now for about two weeks. The travels are over and the rhythm of everyday life is returning to me abruptly, a pace I suppose I'm used to or maybe even seek out. For the larger part of our trip I spent days behind my camera absorbing all that I could and finding time each week to write about the experiences, both to give everyone back home an update and to keep up with the goal I set myself of committing to writing. For the most part of the trip I nailed it, everyday I came "home" to a family apartment, air BnB, hostel or hotel room with photos to edit and thoughts to mull over before putting them to a page. I was stoked to feel my creative juices flowing and I was pumped to have time off to relax - until I wasn't. 

At a certain point in the trip I had to stop sharing. I had to stop writing and opening up the experiences because they weren't what I wanted. I was frustrated. I didn't want to share the anxiety and gut retching fear I was feeling inside of me, I wanted to share stories of drunken nights and gorgeous views and rainbows and butterflies. Those weren't there. I know myself well enough to know given the opportunity to pause and reflect, I will eventually tear myself apart and rebuild. I knew before we left for this trip I would come home changed in some way, I just didn't know how. Travel has always hit me deeply and there are a couple trips in my life I can honestly say paved the way for me to be sitting here where I am right now.

 1) When I was 14 years old (or 15..what is time?) my family and I drove from Kelowna B.C to Las Vegas through Washington State, Idaho, Montana, Utah, Arizona and Nevada. Sitting in the rear passenger seat for two days of 10+ hours driving my eyes were glued to the changing landscape. In those two days it hit me: This is me, this is where I belong,  in the wild... it would be years until I gained the confidence to go to those wild places and trust my abilities, but I will never forget those moments and those views. It was truly a stepping stone and a foundation for many of the goals I have for myself.

2) A few years ago I came to Vancouver for a couple weeks to visit my family while I was out east living in Montreal. Never before has a place struck me so deeply, and pulled me so intensely. Every ounce of my being was telling me "You should be here, you shouldn't be there". Considering the life I was living in Montreal at the time it wouldn't take a scientist to decipher that moving to Vancouver would be a great idea - but it spoke to me very personally. I felt in that trip that if I moved to Vancouver I would find the place and the space to be myself. At the time when returning to Montreal I convinced myself it was just vacation speaking, as terrible as things were out east it was "fine" and in any case moving would be impossible. 3 months later I moved to Vancouver.

Those are the two deepest examples I have from trips alone, excluding the full force of places I have lived. With every visit to a place I find there is something to be learned, not only about the geography and the culture but about yourself. Tuning in to how you respond to your surroundings awakens you to deeper levels of yourself. Before leaving for the trip I figured I would come home with some sort of enlightenment towards my craft - more confidence in knowing this is my passion and less fear in pursuing it. While I do feel that - I didn't expect be in a constant fist fight with my own ego. The experience throughout was bitter sweet... think of it as eating beets: delicious and sweet then unexpectedly clearing you of all your shit. 

You're welcome for the imagery.

I spent a lot of time in my head. A lot. Lucky for me I had a travel partner, and best friend, who cared enough to worry and was great at bringing me back to reality in moments where I'd simply leave and be gone in my head. This pattern of mine is a blessing and a curse, which simply needs more taming with time. I knew during the trip I would reap the benefits eventually no matter how shit it felt at the time. A few things really made my self brutality clear to me, and this is something I decided to dig up before the new year so it was ever present. I have been honing in on this, focusing on my inner dialogue so I can see it and learn to dismiss it. It's no longer a useful story I tell myself, but I am finding it a useful practice to really notice when it starts, feel it, digest it and let it go. Cut to our surf day in Lagos where I spent the better part of it infuriated with myself and angry that I wasn't better at surfing. I was so excited, and had been for years, to try surfing that I somehow expected myself to be good at it (magically). When I wasn't it, I brought out the big guns and spent the day in my own head nervously freaking out and beating myself up for being crap at it. Even my instructor could tell and was giving me little pep talks. The anxiety and nervousness I felt was truthfully embarrassing, I was a mess.  I was sent to continue practicing on smaller waves alone while the rest advanced and an hour into my practicing I realized I simply wasn't there, no part of me was present in the moment. My body was trying to get up on the board and continuously crashing into the water (fyi, it is so much fun to bail incessantly - I swear I was actually having a good time too despite these silly mind games) but my head was in the past, digging up other stories of failure. There I was watching a slide show of every time I ever made a mistake, every example of my athleticism being shit, every memory of being fat and nonathletic. With that my brain spiraled with the story: It's not because it's my first day surfing that I'm not great - it's just because I'm a lesser human being. Brilliant. (sarcasm) 

It was an incredible trip, with incredible experiences like the one in Lagos. Fun probably wouldn't be the operative word, but then again it wouldn't be my style without some good old self reflection, analysis, anxiety and a boat load of goofing off as well. With each place we visited I felt a new understanding of myself and light was shone on different aspects of me, so it is to be young and growing.
 

 Being back in Paris truly felt like being back home, a home I feel no need to live in again but one that still holds a place in my heart. Much like a childhood home would.

Norway enthralled me with it's fjords and mountain views, above all else my heart belongs to sights similar to those. I breathed easy and care free in the small town with nothing to do... but I did ache for the mountains. I wanted to explore them so badly, Norway will get a second look. 

Scotland hit me deeply and early on in the trip. It sparked the spiral I would head down on mentally for the rest of the trip, until truthfully, I got home to Vancouver. Scotland took me straight back to the past and sat me face to face with it. In a painful way I was put back next to a state of mind which used to be mine only to realize I am not that person anymore. I am not that person a n y m o r e. I assure you, even though this is an AMAZING thing to find out, because I feel great, am doing great and am surrounded by greatness daily, it was not easy to digest. The stories we tell ourselves are strong and powerful, there's a reason they shape our lives and for the same reason they are hard to let go of. I would spend the rest of the trip tormenting myself over this... "I am not my past, but I am not yet the future I want for myself, so how do I become that? What in me is lacking to be exactly what I want for myself?" You get the drift... pro tip, nothing is lacking, I'm already there, we all are. ;)

Ireland was beautiful, and above all else allowed me to digest one of the deepest, simplest and most important aspects of my being. I am nature, I need nature. My anxiety threw me through the roof as I realized I am not okay without a healthy amount of seclusion and fresh air. I just simply don't function. It isn't mean to need time alone, and it isn't weird to crave solitude. When I am alone I can be without judgement and release without fear of affecting those who surround me. Nature is bliss... I've gone hiking on every day off I've had since getting home... that solves that.

Portugal was delightful and warm and allowed us something more of the expected travel experience as we met up with my brother for shenanigans. We actually went out for drinks, where previously we simply didn't and saved money. We socialized more within our hostels and met cool people where in Ireland I was too mentally exhausted to bother (I can only blame myself!). We did a little road trip, or in my case had a couple naps (cars are just too comfy). I got the surf and mental lesson of a life time which I will never forget... and Lauren was put through a bit of a hellish boxing match sandwiched between my brother and I. I suppose we have a particular way of showing love and affection, which looks a lot like jerk comments and intellectual jousting. Probably not fun for anyone other than ourselves.

The last week of my trip was spent in Nice with family and again up in Paris. A great way to decompress as much as possible before heading home. In Nice we met up with my cousin Anais who eventually came up to Paris with us as well - soon to be a welcome sight back here in Vancouver. It was great to have the three of us together again, Anais took us to some fantastic spots in Paris that will forever be some of my favourties from now on. These two girls also gave me a necessary and stern talking to when I most needed it, another piece of the trip I won't forget. While all in all it may not have been the "token euro trip" expected from two girls in their early 20s it was without a doubt the one I both wanted and needed, while my travel buddy is still away I can only hope it was the same for her. 

I started the blog with a quote by Eckhart Tolle which is one of my absolute favourites, and I think perfect for describing my trip. "Where ever you go, there you are". Which is to say, you can escape your surroundings and move your body to new places but the only thing you can't escape is you. You are always there. None of these painful, annoying or anxiety causing experiences I had on the trip were anything new to me, they are parts of me I had already been calling to light in the last year. They are things I am asking to be shown so I may heal through them. For that I am beyond delighted that I felt them and experienced them in this way, and forever grateful that I had supportive people at my side. 

Since being back everyone has been asking if my trip was fun, but truthfully to say it was fun wouldn't be true.

It was mind blowing.